Volunteer: Toadlet Counting

To sign up, email alex@fraservalleyno.wpengine.com

The Work

  • Help us to complete the 2021 Ryder Lake Toadlet Migration Season!
  • We are looking for volunteers to review wildlife camera images of the toadlets passing through the toad tunnel. If you have some spare time to put your eagle eyes to good use, we would love to hear from you!

Why it’s Helpful

  • Counting how many toadlets pass through the toad tunnel during the migration helps us determine the success of our Ryder Lake Amphibian Protection Program.
  • The numbers of toadlets in the photos provide insight into the relative size of the toadlet migration for this year and if the toad tunnel is working as intended.
  • It also provides interesting insight into what other critters use the tunnel to cross the road!

Responsibilities

  • Count toadlets in a series of photos that were taken on the toad tunnel wildlife camera.
  • Input the toadlet count data into a provided Excel spreadsheet.

Requirements

  • Must be detail oriented and committed to meeting deadlines.
  • Computer skills are a must – specifically knowledge of Google Drive (this is how you will access the photos) and Microsoft Excel.
  • Must have access to a full-size, high-resolution monitor to review the photos on. This work can not be done on a phone or laptop due to the nature of the photos.

Training

  • Written instructions on how to count the toadlets on the images.
  • Written instructions on how to input the toadlet count into the Excel spreadsheet.
  • Access to FVC staff person for any questions you may have.

Setting

  • Office work.

Location

  • Your home.

Commitment/Length/Timing

  • Starting ASAP.
  • Go through images in groupings of 500 at a time, depending on how many toadlets are in each photo this could take 5-10 hours to review a group of 500. (If you’d like more, request another batch and 500 more will be sent).
  • We ask that each batch of 500 images be completed within a 2-week window after being received.
  • Photos can be reviewed at any time of the day/week.

To sign up, email alex@fraservalleyno.wpengine.com

Thank you for your interest in counting toadlets!

Volunteer: Toadlet Fencing 2021

To sign up, email alex@fraservalleyno.wpengine.com

Reminder that sign up is mandatory so we can better plan for the day!

The Job

  • The tadpoles are getting closer to metamorphosing into tiny toadlets, and soon will be making their annual mass migration to the surrounding forest. Come out and help us install silt fencing in a hay field. We will be hammering stakes into the ground and laying down garden hose to make sure the little toadlets can’t sneak their way underneath. 

Why it’s Helpful

  • Thousands of toad tadpoles are growing into toadlets and soon it’ll be time for them to migrate to the forest on the other side of the road. You will be helping them to do this safely! Installing the toadlet fence will ensure that they get to their tunnel under the road!  

Responsibilities

  • Construct and install the toadlet fencing.

Requirements

  • Must be prepared to work in hot conditions with no shade.

  • Hammering wooden and metal stakes into the ground, and using a staple gun to secure the fence, in a hay field will be required.

  • Must navigate uneven ground, and climb over fencing.

  • Need work gloves, sturdy shoes (hiking boots recommended), and dress for the weather (hats, sunscreen etc.)

Safety

  • Masks are required.

Training

  • Fence installation training provided on site.

Setting

  • Outdoors, hay field, along road ways

Location

  • Ryder Lake/Chilliwack – details to be emailed pre-event. Having a vehicle to get to the area is a requirement.

Commitment/Length/Timing

  • Last day to register is Tuesday, June 29th at Noon. Please email alex@fraservalleyno.wpengine.com to sign up.

  • Event Date: Wednesday, June 30th, 2021 from 8:00 am – 11:00 am (UPDATED TIME)

ICE CREAM will be provided for everyone who helps out!


To sign up, email alex@fraservalleyno.wpengine.com

Thank you for your interest in our toadlet fencing volunteer opportunity!

Bullfrog Project Year End Update – 2020

Figure 1 – A wetland in the Ryder Lake area

Bullfrogs in Ryder Lake

In the last few years, bullfrogs have been detected in the Ryder Lake area, leading to the creation of the Bullfrog Control and Biodiversity project that aims to protect native amphibians. In their native habitat (Eastern and Central North America) bullfrogs have natural predators that keep their numbers down. Outside of their native ranges, and when sufficient predators are not around, bullfrogs are an invasive predator that can cause serious harm to wetlands. They have voracious appetites and are “gape-limited” predators, meaning they eat anything that will fit in their mouths. This includes invertebrates, other frogs, turtles, snakes, birds and small mammals. The presence of bullfrogs could be disastrous for the native species that rely on these wetlands for part of their lifecycle. The wetland in Figure 1 is one of the largest waterbodies in the area and is one of the target locations of our bullfrog control efforts because it is an important breeding location for the at-risk Western Toad and Northern Red-Legged Frog (Figure 2), as well as four other native amphibians.

 

Figure 2 – Native amphibian species. Western Toad (left), Northern Red-legged Frog (Middle), Northern Pacific Treefrog (right).

Bullfrog Control

As the first official field season of the Fraser Valley Conservancy’s Bullfrog Control and Biodiversity Research project comes to a close, we can take the time to reflect on a great start to what is hopefully a very successful bullfrog control program. In the 2020 field season we successfully removed over 1400 bullfrogs from the Ryder Lake area and we plan to continue this momentum into 2021.

Figure 3 – A particularly dark bullfrog

In addition to targeting adult and juvenile bullfrogs we are always on the lookout for bullfrog egg masses, like the one in Figure 4. This year, we were able to successfully locate and remove 2 egg masses from the wetlands. Hopefully we didn’t miss any in the dense vegetation! When searching for bullfrog egg masses it is important to remain vigilant, as the bullfrog eggs can develop into tadpoles very quickly (only 4-5 days if the temperature is right) and each egg mass contains roughly 20,000 eggs! Luckily for us, bullfrogs breed later than our native species so their egg masses should be the only ones around in the summer months. Their egg masses are also large and obvious, so it makes detection a little easier.

Figure 4 – American Bullfrog egg mass. Photo Credit: Kendra Morgan

Biodiversity

While one goal of this project is to control the bullfrogs in the Ryder Lake area, we also aim to understand the impacts that these invasive predators have on wildlife and sensitive wetland ecosystems like our study area. Our project also involves creating a “biodiversity baseline”, which is a list of everything living in the wetlands. Though this is a daunting task, it is fundamental in helping us determine the potential impacts of bullfrogs. Below are just a few of the cool things we have found while conducting surveys this year.

Figure 5 – Shadow Darner (left), Bryozoan colony (middle) and Signal Crayfish (right).

Our biodiversity baseline is not complete, but year 1 biodiversity data collection efforts revealed over 50 species of vegetation, 55 species of invertebrates (including 1 crayfish and 1 bryozoan), 20 bird species, 15 mammal species (including 8 bat species), 2 reptile species (including the invasive Red-Eared Slider) and 7 amphibian species (including the invasive American Bullfrog and 2 species at risk). During our spring egg mass surveys, we target native amphibian egg masses and in 2020 we found: 139 Northwestern salamander, 4 Long-toed salamander, 51 Northern Red-Legged Frog, and hundreds of Northern Pacific treefrog.

 

Research

There are so many questions about bullfrogs that we still do not have answers for. Part of our future bullfrog research initiative will involve creating a network/partnership with other groups and research institutions to help us understand these creatures and their potential impacts. In 2020/2021 we started to investigate partnerships to focus on gut content analysis and frog limb deformity research using our captured and euthanized frogs, and we will continue to build these partnerships in the future.

 

In 2021 we plan to continue controlling bullfrogs and monitoring native amphibian species in the Ryder Lake area.

If you want to learn more about bullfrogs in the Fraser Valley click here.

 

We are grateful for the generous support of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, landowners, and community members who are helping us to protect the Ryder Lake area. Thank you!

Special thanks to Grace and Steve, without whom this project would not be what it is today.

 

The results are in for Toadlet Migration 2020…

This year’s toadlet motto was “better late than never”!

Check out this first-hand account written by Molly Tilden.

On July 20thdeveloping toadlets were seen congregating on lily pads and along the shoreline. We were happy to see that, unlike last year, they were staging in the usual area with direct access to our toad fence.


Over the next 10 days, the toadlets made slow progress through the hayfield. They were seen clumped throughout the grass as they meandered towards the road. We were just beginning to wonder if they would ever leave the hay field. They finally made it to the fencing on July 29th! 

 

This year was especially exciting for us summer students because we were able to witness the toads using our brand-new Animex permanent fence that we spent much of the summer installing.

It was simply amazing to see our hard work paying off as we watched the toadlets hopping along the fence, unable to climb its slippery surface, and funneling into the toad tunnel. We didn’t see any toadlets breach the new fence. It was officially toad-proof!

As summer students, we were responsible for conducting morning and evening surveys along a six-kilometer route including Elk View, Huston, and Ryder Lake Roads.  We counted all the dead and live toads found on the road along our route. We also used a wooden sampling frame every 50m to count dead and live toadlets in 59 predetermined plots. This data is important so we can compare mortality numbers with previous years to better understand how well the tunnel and fencing is working to save toad lives. 

So is it working?

This graph shows the combined data from road surveys starting in 2014, prior to the tunnel installation, and all subsequent years post-installation, including this year’s migration. As you can see, the black graph for this year shows toadlets were only found on Elk View Road, and at the intersection with Ryder Lake Road. No toadlets were seen on Huston Road this year. The area of the road protected by the fencing and tunnel is indicated by the red bar along the bottom. The yellow graph from pre-tunnel installation shows how this was area was a toadlet crossing hot spot. And again this year the data shows that the number of toads on the road in the graph has been effectively flattened!

The 2020 toadlet migration was relatively small compared to previous years. In total 10,500 toadlets were counted in the tunnel. As a reference, in 2018 the toadlets migrated in a very similar pattern, and over 73,000 toadlets were counted in the tunnel. Many Ryder Lake locals expressed their surprise at the low numbers of toads on the road, but there are many possible explanations for this:

  • Surveys conducted in the spring of this year indicated fewer adult toads traveling to the wetland to breed, compared to previous years, which may have led to fewer egg masses and resultant toadlets.
  • Toads reach reproductive maturity at around 4-5 years of age, so low numbers of toadlets this year could reflect a low reproductive year 4-5 years ago. In spring 2016, the lowest number of migrating adult toads were observed, which may be an indicator of this cycle in action.
  • American Bullfrogs recently invaded the breeding pond and may be consuming toad tadpoles and toadlets, reducing overall numbers. See this link for information about how the FVC is working to tackle the bullfrogs: https://fraservalleyno.wpengine.com/bullfrog/.

With COVID-19 keeping people closer to home this summer, many of us have turned to local trails to seek fun and relaxation amidst the pandemic. While more people connecting with nature is great, it does pose a greater threat to the toadlets due to the increased traffic along Elk View Road from hikers. For this reason, we asked the community to use our voluntary detour route, avoiding the section of Elk View Road closest to the wetland, and to limit toad viewing to our online posts.

We want to offer a huge THANK YOU to everyone in the community who followed these guidelines and helped protect the toads. During our surveys, we saw you taking the detour and can attest that the toadlets appreciated your consideration. 

 

This project would not be possible without the generous support from our wonderful donors and volunteers along with:

Conservation during COVID-19: Please don’t love the Toads to Death!

The warm summer weather coupled with COVID-19 restrictions is motivating many people to get outdoors and enjoy nature. It is great to see this renewed interest in the natural environment and recognition of how important it is in our lives. However, we have all likely seen the news about how this increased human activity is affecting our natural areas; images of garbage on beaches, and overcrowded parks are popping up every week.
Here in the Fraser Valley we are extremely fortunate to have so much space available for us to explore and connect with nature. We must not forget that this space is also home to a wide variety of plants and animals, some of whom are at risk of extinction. One of these special creatures, the Western toad, is about to make its annual migration. Like many other aspects of our natural areas in the time of COVID-19, it is in danger of being loved to death…
The Fraser Valley Conservancy (FVC) has been working to protect amphibians in Chilliwack’s Ryder Lake area for over a decade, installing a “toad tunnel” under a busy road to allow safe passage for migrating frogs, toads, and salamanders. Five years after the tunnel has been installed the FVC continues to monitor the success of the tunnel during the annual summer Western toadlet migration. Mid-summer, thousands of tiny toadlets emerge from their natal wetland in search of a new forest home. Many make this journey safely thanks to the toad tunnel and drivers using the voluntary detour route. However, not all toadlets find the toad tunnel and are forced to cross the road. Sadly these toadlets are killed unintentionally by people trying to view the migration or not using the detour route. With increased traffic to the popular Elk Mountain trailhead, and people looking for new outdoor activities, road mortality for this year’s migrating toadlets may be worse than usual.
Please consider the challenges of conservation during COVID-19 when planning your summer activities this year. Most importantly, avoid traveling to Ryder Lake to view the toadlet migration. This year there are more concerns than ever, from maintaining safe social distancing for our staff and community members to the potential to disrupt this important ecological event. The Western toadlets are easily startled by humans simply observing them, causing them to waste crucial energy trying to flee. These toadlets are smaller than a dime, making them nearly impossible to see from a car.
We all find this mass migration event magical; this is one of the things that makes the Fraser Valley such a fantastic and biodiverse place to live. Please, help the FVC help the toads: this summer don’t love the toads to death! Follow the signed detour route during the migration.

Paper maps are available at the info sign at Ryder Lake Community board, 1.5 km up Elk View Road from the Bailey Road turn off.
This project is made possible by the generous support of our donors as well as grants from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program.

 

Toadlet Migration 2019 brought to you by the summer crew…

Wow! After 26 days, it’s finally over – let’s do a recap of what the toads were up to this year…

An Exceptional Year

Searching for toadlets along the survey route

By the middle of July it felt like we had been doing our toad survey route forever. As this year’s summer students, it was our responsibility to walk the 6 kilometer survey route that covered Elk View, Ryder Lake, and Houston Roads regularly to watch the marching army of tiny toadlets. Rain or shine, morning or evening, the two of us would painstakingly count every toadlet on the road that we could see, occasionally putting down our wooden sampling frame to take a closer look.

During the latter part of the migration, we had heard of some eyewitness accounts of toadlets crossing near the intersection of Ryder Lake and Extrom Road, well beyond our survey route. Being inquisitive researchers, we walked along the road to investigate. As we climbed the hill towards Extrom road, I became increasingly skeptical. There weren’t any toadlets to be found.

But then we reached the top of a hill and BAM! What seemed like tens or hundreds of toads were scattered across the road, like we had seen at the peak of the migration. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

This incident was just one notable example of how this year’s Western toadlet migration was exciting!

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Gathering the data

Counting toadlets in the survey plots

Why do we have to survey the toadlets when we already have a toad tunnel and fencing installed? Firstly, we want to see if we have reduced toadlet road mortality with these measures. Secondly, this is an opportunity to learn more about this population and track any migration trends.

Daily surveys are necessary to collect toadlet data for this project. We rely on the numbers from our road surveys to give us an idea of the scope of the migration. Our survey route is not a casual stroll; it is a stretch of road carefully divided into 57 plots that are 50 metres apart. In every plot, we put down a wooden sampling frame that we use to count toadlets. We also estimate the amount of dead and alive toads we see between each sampling frame. The road survey data is used to assess whether the toad tunnel and fencing are mitigation for road mortality.

 

What we have found so far

The toads were prolific this year! After tallying up our road plot counts, we discovered that there were about 10 times as many live toadlets in the plots compared to last year, and only twice as many dead. The abundance of toadlets can be explained by the large number of adults observed in the spring moving into Hornby Lake to breed. We found twice as many adults migrating to the breeding pond in 2018 as in 2017, and the number of adults observed doubled again this year. Their migration route heading west across Ryder Lake Road was a good choice for the toadlets in the sense that there is way less traffic on this road, significantly reducing the likelihood of being killed.

It was a big milestone for the breeding adults this year. The toads that came to Hornby to breed this year would have been part of the first cohort of toadlets to use the brand new tunnel in 2015!

As shown in our annual “toadlets on the road” graph above, the route the toadlets chose to exit the pond this year were somewhat different than in the last 4 years. More toadlets migrated across Ryder Lake Road this year, similar to 2014.

Volume and Radius

When I asked project lead Sofi Hindmarch about what set this year’s toad migration apart from the others, the keywords that really stuck out to me were “volume” and “radius”.

I couldn’t agree more with those descriptors. If we were to estimate how many toadlets made the mass exodus from Hornby Lake this year, our numbers would land in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. Those mother toadlets did a great job filling up the pond with eggs!

The second keyword, radius, also characterizes the migration with the toadlets spreading out across several roads and migrating in all directions. We even saw toadlets in places we haven’t seen them before – near the intersection of Ryder Lake and Extrom road. While not many used the toad tunnel this year, this migration pattern may be a blessing in disguise. By crossing roads with less traffic more toadlets made it safely across the road.

The density map above shows where the toadlets migrated out from the breeding pond. This year’s migration hotspot was across the stretch of Ryder Lake Road near the lake. However, they crossed in some capacity all along Ryder Lake Road, parts of Houston Road, and also near the toad tunnel.

But what is that sound?

Something odd jumped out at us when doing our toad walks. Nearly every day when we passed by Ryder Lake we began to hear an unsettling sound. “It must be a cow who’s lost its calf,” I told my co-worker. After all, I had heard a similar noise from the herd of cattle by my house. But the sound was there seemingly without fail. As soon as Ryder Lake became visible through the trees, that awful noise like a broken seesaw would greet us. Unfortunately, it was indicative of something much worse than a cow.

Folks, the bullfrogs have found Ryder Lake…

A bullfrog tadpole, compare to the toad tadpole at the top of this post!

‘Bullfrog’ is a word that can send shivers down an ecologist’s spine, at least here in B.C. But why is that? Other than breaking the local noise curfew, bullfrogs are an invasive species. The body of bullfrog tadpoles (not including the tail) can reach up to 6 centimeters in length – that’s up to 3 times the length of toad and tree frog tadpoles! In the breeding pond, bullfrog tadpoles can outcompete native amphibian larvae for space and food. Soon, what was once a diverse breeding pond becomes a bullfrog breeding pond. Once bullfrogs reach their full size they become even more of a menace. Adult bullfrogs, which can reach up to 20 centimeters in length, will eat anything that fits into their mouths.

 

One of our most dedicated Ryder Lake volunteers with a young bullfrog

 

On average bullfrogs take 4 years to reach breeding age, 2 years as a tadpole, and 2 years as an adult. Currently, all 4 of these life stages are present at Hornby Lake (the main breeding pond), meaning that they have been there for at least 4 years. Breeding adults are now at Ryder Lake as well, so the bullfrogs are spreading, and they will continue to do so until all ponds they can access are occupied.

However, now that the FVC knows of their presence at Ryder Lake we can assess the situation to see if there are feasible options to stop the bullfrog invasion. Currently we are consulting with Provincial experts on best practices to deal with bullfrogs. How do you tell the difference between bullfrogs and toads? What do you do if you find one? For answers to these questions and others, visit our previous post on the subject.

What a year!

Toadlet migrations are an exceptionally cool phenomenon and it was amazing to have the opportunity to observe these amazing creatures make their way towards their forest home. We learned a lot about the toadlets during their migration and were able to contribute to research on this population. Can’t wait to see what the toads do next year!

This project is made possible by support from:

 

As well as our wonderful FVC donors and volunteers – THANK YOU!

 

Attention Ryder Lake residents: we are looking for your help as Bullfrogs have recently been detected in Ryder Lake and the nearby Hornby Lake!

We are seeking input from the community so we can create an effective management plan:

  • Have you seen or heard Bullfrogs in this neighbourhood?
  • Do you have a pond on your property where amphibians breed?
Contact Aleesha@FraserValleyConservancy.ca to report a Bullfrog detection, or with any amphibian questions you have!

It is really important to know the differences between our native Western Toads and the invasive Bullfrogs.

If you missed our presentation at the hall, you can learn more by reading the Bullfrogs at Ryder Lake presentation

Also check out our useful guides:
Amphibian Identification
Egg Mass Identification
Bullfrog Control Guide
Listen to the audio clips below to learn the differences between our native Western Toad and Chorus Frog and the invasive Bullfrog and Green Frog:

 

This important project is made possible by financial support from:

 

 

Sign Up to Be an Amphibian Road Survey Volunteer!

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Sign Up to Help Monitor the Toads at Ryder Lake! 

As soon as the weather warms up, many of our frogs, toads, and salamanders will emerge from their winter brumination (the amphibian version of ‘hibernation’) and start their trek to their breeding pond. If you enjoy cold walks on rainy nights and you would like to learn how to identify the different amphibians crossing the road, we could use your help!
Every year, we create a contact list of volunteers interested in helping with these amphibian surveys. Would you like to be added to the 2019 list?

 

Photo by: Sean McCann

 

We’re looking for volunteers to help with evening amphibian surveys as a component of our Ryder Lake Amphibian Protection Project.

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WHAT TO EXPECT
Volunteers will assist with counting live and dead amphibians along a stretch of Ryder Lake and Elk View roads in Chilliwack, BC. Data collected through these surveys is used to determine the effectiveness of our toad tunnel and associated fencing at reducing road mortality.
Volunteers must be prepared to walk 6 km in cold, dark and wet conditions while searching for amphibians along the road. Surveys will start after dark, and generally take 2-3 hours to complete depending on how many amphibians are out. Weather appropriate gear (rain jacket, rain pants, boots or waterproof shoes, gloves) is required.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Surveys cannot be scheduled in advance as they are dependent on having the ‘right’ weather conditions – we can only do these surveys in the rain when the amphibians are migrating. To handle this tricky scheduling, we keep a list of interested volunteers that we contact when it looks like the conditions will be good for a survey (i.e. wet). Sofi will email everyone on her registered volunteer list, requesting help for a specific date and time. The first volunteers who respond will be her helpers for that survey. Usually this e-mail is sent the day before or sometimes even the day of a survey night.

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To sign up for this interesting and challenging experience, please e-mail Sofi@fraservalleyno.wpengine.com to be added to the 2019 volunteer contact list.
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If you have any questions please do not hesitate to send Sofi an email at: Sofi@fraservalleyno.wpengine.com, or call the office at 604-625-0066.

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